Out of the Trunk

April 22nd, 2009 § 1 comment


For an archive that caters primarily to fashion, lifestyle, travel, and celebrity based imagery, which is then sold to the type of magazines owned by Conde Nast, I was surprised to find that the archive of Seydou Keïta is among our recent acquisitions. Born in Mali, he was a self-taught photographer who specialized in portraits of his family, friends, and neighbors beginning in the 1940’s. It is difficult to photograph people and places that are steeped in a history of photographic exploitation, but his perspective appears authentic. The constructed quality of the images and the subjects posed expressions reminds me of James Van Der Zee, the notorious manipulator. I am curious how accurate these portraits are in showing a slice of Malian life at that time.

girl in hat

Keïta, along with a few others who recently became a part of the archive, such as Philip-Lorca DiCorcia or Mary Ellen Mark, stand out distinctly from the others; obvious for obvious reasons. It is always amusing when we stumble across photographers who crossover into fine art, as the terminology used to describe the images changes. Suddenly the conceptual words seem less like a categorizing function we never use, and more like an apt description of the images. Since the quality of our workday is usually directly related to the quality of images we look at and work with, I gladly took on the research and keywording of Keïta’s work. I also took it upon myself to abscond with a few examples

little boy

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